What is the difference between social policy & public administration?

Social policy graduates are engaged in global, federal, state, and local government policy arenas. Their policy, research, and substantive skills are also in demand for policy creation, implementation, and evaluation in nonprofit, philanthropic, and research organizations.

Public administration graduates tend to work predominantly in local government policy settings or in policy positions within nonprofit organizations.

What is the difference between social policy and public policy?

Social policy is a subset of public policy that focuses on solving social problems such as economic and educational inequality, racial and health disparities, and other similar problems through policy. As such, social policy initiatives and outcomes actively attend to social issues of equity, equality, and adequacy.

Public policy may or may not be as focused on social problems and social issues.

What is the difference between social policy and macro social work?

Social policy is centrally focused on social change processes through policy work in multiple levels of government or in other types of organizations as noted above.

Macro social work more frequently addresses social change via an emphasis on policies, practices, and procedures within human service organizations.

What sets Penn’s MSSP program apart from other policy programs?

Penn’s one-year MSSP program is intensive, comprehensive, and practical. Penn’s MSSP graduates are in high demand in governmental and non-governmental policy settings because of these program components:

  • Intensive emphasis on research and evaluation skills, quantitative and qualitative reasoning;
  • Active instruction in oral and written communications skills by communications experts;
  • Elective opportunities in Schools across the University of Pennsylvania;
  • Opportunity to integrate global options within the School of Social Policy & Practice, across the University of Pennsylvania, and through exchanges with other universities;
  • The policy internship, which provides real-world policy work experience;
  • Highly individualized advising and attention; and
  • Supportive and broad-based MSSP, SP2, and Penn alumni networks.

What are the basic requirements for admission to the MSSP program?

Admission requires:

  • completion of a formal application for admission;
  • bachelor’s degree and grade point average that reflects strong academic ability;
  • an application essay;
  • in the case of international students whose first language is other than English, TOEFL or IELTS scores at a level appropriate for advanced graduate work (if submitting TOEFL scores, the Institutional Code is 2926 and Department Code is 95);
  • three references (two academic and one employment or volunteer); and
  • A writing sample that demonstrates potential for policy analysis work. This is a product that was previously prepared and submitted. A writing sample could be: a previously submitted school written assignment, publication, brief, professional report, etc.

What is the application deadline?

Applications must be submitted by December 15th.

What is the application fee?

If you apply to the MSSP program by 11:59 PM ET on December 1st, you will be able to avail yourself of a reduced application fee of $25. After December 1st, the application fee increases to $65.

What information is required for an application to be considered complete?

Your application is considered complete when the following have been received:

  • Application form;
  • Three letters of recommendation: one (1) work/volunteer related reference and two (2) academic references;
  • Where appropriate, TOEFL scores;
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate studies (including transfer and study abroad credit);
  • Application essay; and
  • Writing sample.

Please Note: Transcripts reflecting more than two semesters of study at institutions based outside of the United States must be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by a third-party evaluation service such as WES or Educational Perspectives. This applies even if the studies were conducted in English and even if the transcript is printed in English. Applicants with these international transcripts should upload their university-issued transcripts into the online application and order their official, third-party evaluations sent to the School of Social Policy & Practice. Please note that these international transcripts cannot be considered official until they have been evaluated and that their respective applications cannot be reviewed until the evaluations have arrived in the Admissions Office.

Is an application interview arranged with all applicants?

All students will be asked to complete a recorded video interview prior to submitting the application. You will be asked to record your answer to four questions and will have time to both practice recording and prepare for the questions prior to recording your video interview. We would advise planning to spend approximately 20 minutes distraction-free to complete the recorded video interview process.

On occasion, applicants will be asked to interview with program staff after application submission. These interviews will take place via Zoom.

Who makes admission decisions?

Once the application is complete (including the interview), the Admissions Committee makes all admission decisions. The completed application file, i.e., transcripts, experience, letters of recommendation and the application statement is reviewed.

Do you accept transfer students into Penn’s MSSP Program?

Generally, transfers are not allowed between programs. Each program requires a separate application and follows a distinct curriculum configuration. However, an exception can be made in consultation with the academic advisor if a student has a compelling reason to transfer programs, there are seats available, and the student applies to transfer before the first academic semester starts. Transfers are exceptional and not guaranteed.

Is there a deposit fee?

Yes. The fee is $300.00 payable after notification of acceptance. Your acceptance letter will tell you the date by which this fee is expected. This deposit fee is applied to your bill upon matriculation. It is not refundable if you do not matriculate.

For complete information covering all SP2 programs, please visit the Financing Your Education section.

Does the School offer a part-time program?

Yes; a part-time program is offered for the MSSP program (there is not a part-time option for the MSSP + DA). The part-time MSSP Program is designed for students who have chosen to study in the MSSP Program, but are not prepared to matriculate on a full-time basis. Participants in the part-time program must meet the same admission requirements as those for full-time students. Part-time students will adhere to all of the program requirements on a part-time basis. The preferred course load for a part-time student is two courses per semester.

Students enrolled in the part-time MSSP program must be able to attend classes held during the day, and to complete the Capstone seminar and internship as the final required courses.

Students admitted to this program are assisted by an advisor who will assist in developing individualized academic plans.

Are transfers allowed from the MSSP program to the MSSP + DA program?

No, transfers are not allowed between programs. Each program requires a separate application and follows a distinct curriculum configuration.

How many courses do you take each semester?

Full-time MSSP students take five courses a semester for two semesters. Full-time MSSP+DA students take four courses a semester for three semesters. Each class in SP2 meets one day a week. The Capstone Seminar takes place during the Spring Semester and Summer Session I. The MSSP Policy Internship generally takes place during Summer Session I, while the MSSP+DA Policy Internship usually takes place during Spring Session II.

What are the joint/dual degree programs?

Penn School of Social Policy and Practice offers the following dual degree programs:

A separate application to each school is required. Acceptance into the MSSP program is not confirmation of your acceptance into any one of the joint degree programs. In other words, if you apply for a joint degree, you are independently accepted (or not accepted) by each school. Students in the MSSP + DA program are not eligible for dual degrees.

What is the grading system at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2)?

SP2 uses the system of letter grade evaluation that is used by other M.A. and PhD programs at the University. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above is required for MSSP graduation.

Does the School provide academic advising?

Yes. Each student is assigned an advisor who helps the student make the maximum use of the School and University’s resources for a rich academic experience.

How are Social Policy Internships arranged?

The internship placement process begins in the spring semester. Incoming students are asked to complete placement information during the first semester of the program. The placement information form will help the Associate Director identify a setting that will advance the student’s study and integration of theory and practice. The placement form, along with the personal statement and admissions interview, will be reviewed by the Associate Director of the MSSP Program. Each student has the opportunity, and is encouraged, to participate in the selection of the placement through dialogue with the Associate Director and an interview at his/her potential internship before it begins. (This can be a phone interview.)

How much time is spent in the Internship?

The policy internship consists of a minimum commitment of 150 hours.

What are the Internship requirements for part-time students?

Part-time MSSP students must fulfill the same Internship requirements as full-time students.

For more information, please visit the MS in Social Policy Internship page.

Questions about the program? Contact Associate Director of the MSSP Program Azahara Palomeque at 215.573.4977 or azaharap@upenn.edu.

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